MORGANTOWN, W.Va. WBOY) – – West Virginia University’s Faculty Senate met Monday, December 6, 2021, both in-person and virtually, voting down a resolution that called for a “no-confidence” vote in the university’s administration, headed by President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed.
The call for the no-confidence vote was initially based on what authors of the resolution said was the administration’s refusal to institute a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, after large majorities of the university’s faculty, student body and student government association all voted in favor of the mandate.
It also accused the Gee-Reed administration, in part, of refusing “to engage in open, inclusive, systematic practices for hiring qualified candidates for its senior administrative team” and went on to say that the administration “has failed to carry out a transparent academic transformation process.” The resolution ended by saying that Gee and Reed have “failed to respect either professional norms or relevant academic qualifications and expertise when filling top-tier university positions.”
The full original resolution can be read here.
At Monday’s meeting, Political Science Prof. Scott Crichlow, who introduced the resolution, quickly moved to amend it to remove mention of COVID-19 vaccination mandates, putting the focus on issues with “shared governance,” and making the vote “simpler,” he explained. The COVID issue was taking the focus off, “where the discussion needs to be,” he said. Crichlow mentioned Gee appointing a provost for the second time without consulting the faculty, as one of his concerns. Overall, the resolution was “meant to be an attempt to restore shared governance” at WVU, Crichlow said in conclusion.
A motion was then made to table the resolution and move discussion to the Faculty Assembly. That motion failed. Another motion was made to table it until the Faculty Senate’s January meeting, but it did not receive a second.
Several faculty members spoke against the resolution, saying that they did not feel the issues at hand met the level of concern for such a vote.
President Gee spoke at the meeting, saying that the “institution represents hope” to the state. Gee then listed several ways he believes his administration has improved WVU:
- Changed cultural,
- Moved WVU “aggressively into R1 status”
- Got more external funding this year than ever before
- $1.3 billion in fundraising
- Improved retention and graduation rates
- hired a lot of talent
“I’m here to make us better,” Gee said. Gee also defended his decision of to hire Reed as Provost, explaining that she had broad support around campus.
Provost Reed also spoke, saying there are “far more productive ways” for the faculty share its concerns than through the resolution. The administration is interested in hearing faculty concerns and Reed and Gee have “open door” policies, she said, challenging the faculty to also serve as leaders in improving the university.
A list of faculty concerns were not given to Gee and Reed prior to the call for the resolution, they both said.
Several faculty senators expressed concern that the vote on the resolution was not anonymous, with one senator, who is not tenured, suggesting that those in favor of it may be hesitant to publicly voice their support.
The resolution failed on a 103-20 vote.
Earlier in the day West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair issued a statement in support of Gee:
During the nearly eight years that President Gee has served West Virginia University, he has proven to be the kind of leader who understands the role that the state’s flagship university plays in building a better state for all West Virginians. He has shown that he does not see a university as a think tank isolated from the state around it. He sees the university as a dynamic part of every community it serves, and has aggressively pursued every opportunity to grow its footprint.
We believe Dr. Gee is a leader who cares deeply about the students and faculty he serves and respects their abilities as adults to make their own decisions regarding their health and safety.
Further, we believe Dr. Gee understands the nature of higher education is evolving and that universities must evolve with it. As the needs of higher education change, Dr. Gee has continued to expand the college’s offerings and opportunities to maintain its designation as a premier, R1-rated research institution. This is the kind of leadership that we expect at West Virginia’s flagship university, and Dr. Gee has delivered it.
While the nature of uncertain times and continuous change are troubling to many, the greatest asset an institution can have during those times is reliable, compassionate, capable leadership. We believe that is what West Virginia University is fortunate to have in Dr. Gee and his leadership team, and we stand fully beside them as friends and partners as they continue to lead West Virginia into the future.
Therefore, we, the West Virginia Senate Majority Party unanimously stand strong in our support of Dr. Gee’s leadership of West Virginia University.WV Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley